Our water park’s season runs from mid-May through Labor Day. Off-season work begins almost immediately to prepare Dollywood’s Splash Country for the next year. I’ve learned there’s a LOT of elbow grease that goes into maintaining a water park—especially when you consider the standards for all Dollywood properties! We pride ourselves on being the Smokies’ most-trusted water park. Season after season, we offer our guests the friendliest, most-fun and safest water park experience to be found under the sun. We have a lot planned for 2020, but today I want to give you a peek at one project that’s already done: Fire Tower Falls has a new gel coating.
When you first see Fire Tower Falls rising tall above Dollywood’s Splash Country, your heart may palpitate—either because you’re a thrill seeker who can’t wait to race down the twin free-fall slides, or because the sheer thought makes you tremble. No matter the camp in which you land, there’s no denying it’s a popular and beloved attraction.
For the first time since these high-speed slides were installed, we re-gel coated the attraction. I had questions about this project, so I thought I’d share those answers with you.
When water slides are created, crews mix resin with fiberglass to form the structure. The pieces are rigid and rough to the touch. The gel coat is applied giving the slide its color and smooth impermeable surface. But over time and continued use, that gel coating wears down.
Fire Tower Falls, in particular, presents a few more challenges compared to other slides we’ve re-surfaced (such as Mountain Scream, The Butterfly and several slides on Bear Mountain Fire Tower). Because of Fire Tower Falls’ steep drop and angle of the slides, the crew had to use an aerial lift and even repel in order to reach all areas of the slides!
First, the slides are pressure washed to remove waxes, chemical build-ups, sunscreen, etc. Then, the slides are hand-sanded on every surface where new gel coating will be applied. After sanding, the slides are washed again to remove all of the dust and debris created during the sanding process. To apply the new gel, the crew uses spray guns. They spray in layers until they reach between 20-25 mils.
For reference: a regular kitchen trash bag is about 1 mil in thickness (1/1000 of an inch).
Once the proper thickness is achieved, the slide goes through various rounds of sanding using finer and finer sand paper until all imperfections are removed and a very smooth finish is all that’s left. The slide is washed one final time to remove sanding dust. The final step is to polish and wax the newly-coated slides.
From start to finish, the Fire Tower Falls re-surfacing project took a crew of four workers eight full days to complete.
In Between Coatings
To determine how often slides should be re-surfaced, our Dollywood’s Splash Country maintenance team monitors the wear. Even in years when slides don’t need to be re-surfaced, they get a lot of love in the off-season. Crews clean and wax all slides annually to protect and extend the life of the gel coating.
What to Expect
Now that Fire Tower Falls has been re-surfaced, what can guests expect? The smoothest ride! For all four seconds it takes you to get to the bottom- haha!
See you at the bottom of the run-out!